Wisconsin Policy Forum

Hybrid and electric vehicle registrations continued their recent rapid increases throughout Wisconsin in 2021. In less than a decade, the number of electric and hybrid vehicles registered in Wisconsin has more than doubled.

These vehicles remain less than 2% of the state’s total fleet. But their rapid growth has big implications for state fuel tax revenues and infrastructure needs — especially since recent high gas prices and federal legislation may put far more electric vehicles (EVs) on the road.

Hybrid vehicle registrations grew 13.7% in 2021 to 93,453, their biggest annual percentage increase since 2014. In total, they have risen 113.1% since 2013 and have averaged an annual increase of about 10%.

Meanwhile, the total number of electric vehicle registrations is now more than 27 times greater than in 2013, when there were just 319 registered statewide. Now they are approaching 10,000 statewide. Electric vehicle registrations have increased, on average, by 52% each year since 2013.

Among Wisconsin’s 72 counties, Dane County has the most combined hybrid and EV registrations per capita, followed by Ozaukee, Waukesha, Door, and Bayfield counties. This may reflect in part that these more expensive vehicles are more common in places with higher incomes.

Yet these aren’t the only places where hybrid and EV registrations are sharply up. From 2014 to 2021, all but two counties saw an increase of more than 50% in combined electric and hybrid vehicle registrations per capita.

More electrics and hybrids on the road will affect the top source for Wisconsin’s transportation fund: fuel tax revenue. EVs are likely a net loss for the transportation fund even with the $100 registration surcharge their owners are required to pay. Hybrids, subject to a $75 surcharge, may be closer to revenue-neutral.

In 2021, Wisconsin ranked 35th among the 50 states in per-capita electric vehicle registrations, national data show. EV registrations are concentrated in western states. Most Midwestern states cluster near Wisconsin in per-capita EV registrations, though Illinois and Minnesota rank higher.  

A recently heightened focus on electric vehicles in Washington, D.C., is very likely to further accelerate EV adoption. Federal lawmakers and President Joe Biden in November 2021 passed an infrastructure law providing funds to expand EV charging infrastructure, and another sweeping act signed by Biden in August will expand tax incentives to buy electric vehicles.

Meanwhile in Wisconsin, some questions remain about how state leaders respond. Grappling with emerging challenges sooner rather than later could ease our transition from fossil fuels to an increasingly electrified future.

This information is a service of the Wisconsin Policy Forum, the state’s leading resource for nonpartisan state and local government research and civic education. Learn more at wispolicyforum.org.